Monday, December 16, 2013


It is around this time of year that I get a slew of questions regarding the holidays.  People ask things like:

Should I take my dog with me on vacation?

What should I do with my dog when the family comes over?

Is it safe for my dog to have turkey / ham / pecan pie / etc?

How can I keep my dog from jumping on the table / people / etc?

Are poinsettias really bad for my dog?

Where should I place my Christmas tree so I know my dog won't damage it?

The thing with most of these questions is that they all depend on your dog and your lifestyle.  So, let me first address the more generic questions.

Is it safe for my dog to have turkey / ham / pecan pie / etc?
I'll be honest.  I'm fairly lax here and will often give my dogs a small treat or let them lick my plate.  However, just like with most things, there is definitely such a thing as too much of a good thing.  I would never give my dogs a whole plate of turkey or even their own slice of pie.  Chances are it would make them sick, and I'd be left cleaning up the mess.  And there are a few things that aren't so great for any dog.  Raisins (which are found in many Christmas desserts) can be dangerous and pork is almost guaranteed to make them sick.

How can I keep my dog from jumping on the table / people / etc?
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: obedience, obedience, obedience.  A dog who is in a down / stay or place is not going to jump on the table or your grandmother.  In addition to that, though, a lot of exercise will help your dog stay a little more relaxed and that should help keep them on all four paws as well.  Lastly, if your dog is not trained and you don't think you're going to monitor him / her, consider boarding or day care.  I'd rather you drop your dog off somewhere for a night than get horribly frustrated.  There are enough frustrations during the holidays.  Your dog shouldn't be one of them!

Are poinsettias really bad for my dog?
Surprisingly no.  Most people think the white sap and the red leaves in a poinsettia are deadly for both dogs and cats, but that's a myth.  While the berries can be somewhat toxic, poinsettias pretty much have a needlessly bad rap.  Still, though, you must ask yourself if you're OK with your dog or cat eating your plants.  If you're not, you may want to stick with an artificial version (I have one at the kennel that's nice to be able to use year after year).

For all the other questions, it really depends on your dog.  Do you have a calm dog?  Does your dog enjoy traveling?  Is your dog fully house trained?  Are you willing to watch your dog a little more than normal while there are new distractions?  What about your family?  Are they dog people too, or are they having trouble comprehending why you would want anything in your house that has fur on it?

Personally, my dogs are always part of the festivities.  They travel with me, and they're there for everything except Christmas Mass.  They're well-behaved through Christmas dinner, and I just keep a little extra eye on them as people start coming in (they love being around new people and will sometimes get a little over-excited).  Not everyone is like that, though, and not everyone has a family that is as dog-friendly as mine.  If you think your dog may cause more trouble than you can handle, it may be best to board your dog, have a friend watch your dog, or even just put your dog in a separate room for a few hours.

I hope the next few weeks find you relaxed and happy.  No matter what your plans for your dog over the holidays, spend this next week enjoying your dog.  Go for long walks, play games, just have a good time.  I promise it will put you in a good mood and in more of the holiday spirit!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jack the Jack Russell Is Being a Jack A**

About 5 months ago, my family adopted a 1 ½ year old neutered jack Russell/poodle mix (we think!) named Jack from the SPCA. He has proven to be a challenge, but until recently we have not had any issues that aren’t fixable through simple training. On Thanksgiving day, Jack somehow got a hold of a cotton swab and took it into his crate with him. I idiotically reached in to get it from him, and he left some nasty bite wounds on my hand. Yesterday, my dad had the leftover turkey on the kitchen counter, and when he left the room for a minute, Jack managed to grab a turkey leg and bring it into his crate. My dad had to use a garden rake to retrieve it, which Jack proceeded to bite and attack the rake throughout the process. Today, my mom had the turkey out on the counter, and when I stepped in front of Jack in attempt to get him away from the turkey, he immediately went into attack mode; if I had not been wearing plush slippers, there’s a good chance I’d be in the emergency room right now. Other than this newfound aggression over turkey, Jack is a sweet, affectionate and playful dog. It would be my worst nightmare to have him put down over this. I understand that there are no quick fixes to such severe behavioral issues, but my family and I obviously cannot go on living in fear of Jack attacking every time we eat. PLEASE HELP!

 Let me start by saying that this is a VERY serious issue.  Biting of any kind is concerning, but the fact that he's biting to the point of breaking skin and possibly needing stitches is worrisome.  So, what should you do?

The first thing I would do would be to take away any possibility of him getting anything he shouldn't have.  How do you do this you ask.  Well, you have to make sure you can monitor him at all times.  The best way to do this is to utilize two different tools: The leash and the crate.  When he's with the family have him on leash, attached to someone who can keep a good hold of him.  When no one can watch him, put him in a crate.

Next comes training.  He needs to learn how to listen to you.  Even just one command will go a long way.  For this instance, I would teach him a solid recall (come) or a sit.  That way, if he does happen to get a hold of something he shouldn't have, you can give him a command to call him away from it.  Ideally, though, you would put him through a good, solid training program.  I like to make dogs work for all the things they really want in life (to go outside, to eat, to play, etc).  Essentially, he'll learn that everything good comes from you and he has to work for it.

After that, we need to work on desensitization.  I'd start when he's eating his food.  Start by giving him his regular food, and every few seconds drop a high-value treat in his bowl (hot dog, cheese, etc).  Don't move around him or pet him.  Just drop the treat in his bowl.  After a while he'll start to recognize that your approach of his food is a good thing.  He may start to wait for you to give him the treat, or he may just start wagging his tail when you approach him.  At that point, you can try moving away from him and returning to him before dropping the treat.  When you get tail wags for that, try taking things up another notch.  Try approaching from different directions, then try touching him, all while giving him treats.  This will help him learn that your approach does not necessarily mean he's going to lose something good.  Rather, he may gain something better.

Lastly, if he does happen to get something he shouldn't, don't just try to take it away.  Try to trade it for something better.  Offer him a toy or a better treat.  See if there's something special enough for him to give up.  That way, it's no longer a fight over who gets the treat, but rather an opportunity for him to have something better (in his eyes anyway).

I will recommend that you consult a professional trainer as well (more than just on this blog).  It's hard to diagnose and treat an issue without meeting the dog or knowing the family dynamic, so it's best if someone is able to meet with you.

Good luck with Jack.  I know it's a lot of hard work, but having someone who is willing to work with him is extremely important for Jack right now.  Many rescues won't spend much time with a dog who shows severe aggression, and even if they do work with him, it becomes difficult to transfer his good behavior into a new home with new rules.  I wish you the best!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Usually this blog is a source of information for many.  I'll answer questions or post interesting tidbits (well, interesting to me any way).  But, today is Thanksgiving, so I'm taking a little break from that.  I could post information on how to keep your pet safe today, but the reality is that many of you have heard all the tips before.  And, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Today, I want to take a moment to express my thanks to everyone for all their support in this growing business.  I couldn't be more pleased with all we've accomplished in just under two years, and we would not have been able to do this if it weren't for your help.  I know Thanksgiving is just one day out of the year, and I'm thankful every day for you, but today just seems like the perfect day to really let you know how appreciative I am.

That said, I'm also thankful for a few other creatures in my life: Cody, Lollie, Mo, and Stolte.  My two dogs and two cats do so much to help keep me sane when life seems to be going crazy.  Anyway, I thought I'd tell you a little more about them and why I'm so thankful they're around.

-Mo has been mine since he was 4 hours old (you read that right).  He was tossed in a Walmart trash bin along with his 3 brothers and sisters and was rescued by a woman who happened to notice something strange about the bag they were in.  I was only 16, but I bottle fed them and took charge of the 3am feedings.  He's my needy child, but he's also a constant reminder of what can come when people do a little good.  If that woman had decided to just keep walking, or if the rescue she took them to had turned them away, or if my mom had simply said we couldn't take them in, then he might not be here today.  It took a lot of people doing a lot of good to make up for that one callous and cruel act, but those people exist.  I'm thankful for that.

-Stolte was also bottle fed, although her story isn't quiet dramatic.  Her mother was accidentally locked away from her (it's a long story), and by the time we found her and reunited mother and kitten, the mom wouldn't take her back.  I happened to already know how to bottle feed a kitten (thanks to Mo), so I said I would take her in.  It was my senior year of college, and I was freezing in Minnesota.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little depressed.  Stolte made me happy.  She made each day a little easier.  I made friends with new people simply because they wanted to snuggle with a kitten too.  She may be a bit undersocialized and my in-laws may call her demon-kitty, but she loves me and Hans, and she's happy when she's with us.  I'm thankful for that.

-Cody I consider my first born.  I love my cats, but I am admittedly a dog person through and through, and Cody was the first dog who was wholly and truly mine.  He's the reason I went into dog training, and he was my motivation behind opening a kennel.  If Cody had not come into my life I honestly don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing.  I could write a whole book on all that Cody has given me, but let's just say that I'm grateful for his mere existence.

-Lollie is my court jester.  She came into my life through training, and she makes me laugh on a daily basis.  She is by far one of the smartest dogs I've known, but I'd be eternally grateful if she'd learn to use her knowledge for good instead of evil as I tire of finding new ways to hide food from her.  Whether she's snoring so loud she sounds like a chain saw or whether she's figuring out how to use a Bosu ball as a trampoline so she can grab a pizza box that's resting on a file cabinet that's four and a half feet tall, she is a barrel of laughs.  I'm definitely thankful for that.

OK, so here's the question I'm sure you'll hear more than once today: What are you thankful for?  I, however, am adding a bit to that question.  How does your pet (dog, cat, bird, horse, cow, squirrel, etc) make you even more grateful?  It's important to remember how much they've impacted our lives.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Virus

Have y'all heard about this new virus affecting dogs?  It's called the circo-virus.  In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a link:!/newsDetail/23950879

OK, so that article made you panic a bit.  I haven't spent a whole lot of time talking about it, though, because not a lot has been known about it.  Plus, here's the thing, telling a dog owner to rush their dog to the vet if they notice lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea is like telling the mother of a newborn to rush to the doctor if their kid sneezes.  Yes, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea can be serious symptoms, particularly if they're all combined.  However, sometimes a dog is just tired, or sometimes a dog will eat something that does not agree with it.  Plus, generally lethargy accompanies vomiting and diarrhea (I know I don't tend to have a lot of energy when my stomach is upset).

For a less panicky description, follow the link below:

A few things to note in this article:

1) The deaths in Ohio and Michigan have not been definitively linked to circo-virus.  It's not completely ruled out, but I don't like to jump to conclusions.

2) Plenty of dogs have had traces of circovirus in their stool, but have never displayed symptoms.

3) General hygiene and care is the best preventative (until they eventually come out with a vaccine)

Otherwise, while it is good to keep a close eye out, it won't help you to panic.  My best advice?  Talk to your vet.  Really find out about it.  The media is good at spreading hype and panic, so just following news stories is not a good idea.  Do your research, and keep an eye on your dog.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Crate of Doom



Sorry!  Apparently Lollie wanted to say, "Hi!" while I was away from my desk.

Anyway, we have another question today.  Today's question is about a dog who is scared of his new, wire crate.

When we first got Ruger we "crate trained" him. I use "" because I know we could have done a much better job of it but he was happy to go in his crate (that we kept getting larger as he got larger) but about 4 months ago he outgrew the largest airport/carrier crate they made so we had to go to a larger metal collapsible crate. He is TERRIFIED of it, we put him in with treats, we've tried putting his food in there but he won't eat it (days on end), we've tried covering it more like a "den" but he brings the blanket in between the slats and starts chewing on it, we've never put him in there as a punishment (same as his old crates) and whenever we had put him in any of his crates we always put a bone for him to chew on as well as a treat. It's reached the point we are having to full on carry him in the larger metal crate (and at 100lbs it's not easy). What else can we do?

This is a surprisingly easy fix, but it does require a little bit of time and effort.

Step 1: Teach him to simply go in the crate.
The key here is not to force him to stay in it, but to teach him that going in it is fun.  Really, you can do this a number of ways.  You can have him follow a trail of high-value treats into the crate, you can try to get him to take a running start and lead him into the crate, or you can throw his favorite toy into the crate (I would try to avoid simply forcing and shoving him in).  Once he goes in (and this may take some time) give him a huge reward.  I prefer to use a handful of hot dogs or cheese, something my dog really like.  I'll make a big deal of how good he was for going in, give him the treats, and let him out.  Repeat this for a while until Ruger is happily entering the crate.  Remember, he doesn't have to stay in there for any length of time.  He just has to go in.

Step 2: Lengthen his stay.
Once he's happily entering his crate, encourage him to stay in the crate longer by giving him more treats.  I'll generally use an initial command like "go to bed" to get him to enter, and then I lengthen by treating and saying, "Good, good bed."  Of course, you would not go from 0-5 minutes right away.  You may start by having him remain in the crate for just a few seconds, and gradually lengthen his time in there to a minute or two.

Step 3: Shut the door.
Once his time in the crate has lengthened to a minute or so, take it back a step.  Have him go in the crate, treat him a few times for staying in there, then shut the door.  Leave the door shut just long enough to give him a treat through the wires, then open the door.  Once he seems OK with this, return to lengthening his time in the crate, this time with the door shut.

Step 4: Put it all together.
Now is the moment of truth.  See if he will enter the crate, stay in there, and allow you to shut the door all without panicking.  Instead of simply feeding him treats at this point, I would give him something to occupy his time (a Kong or some other puzzle toy is helpful).  He shouldn't stay in there long, maybe just long enough to finish his toy, but by this point he should be able to stay without panicking and without you right next to him.

After following all these steps, Ruger should be able to enter his crate with ease, and you should quickly be able to leave him in the crate while you leave for bouts of time.  I will say, though, if Ruger has issues with even going near his crate, you may need to start with one step earlier.  If he won't even go near the crate, teach him to walk in a heel next to the crate and around the crate until it is no longer scary.  You can also have him down-stay next to the crate and reward him for that.

For most dogs, this a fairly short process and may only take a few days to a week to really get down (depending on how much you work with him).  I have full faith that Ruger will get the hang of things quickly and life will return to somewhat normal soon.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Traveling With Pup

Hi there!  I have to apologize for my absence.  You see, Hans, Cody, Lollie, and I have all been out of town.  We took a nice trip to Minnesota to visit family, and that got me thinking.  How many people really know how to travel with their dogs?  Traveling with dogs is a lot like traveling with's not always easy.  It requires a lot of planning, a lot of preparation, and a lot of attention.  So, here I'm going to give you some simple steps to follow when it comes to traveling with your dog.

Part 1: Preparation

Step 1: Exercise.  Exercise is probably the number one most important thing you can give your dog before you travel, particularly if you have a long car ride.  Your dog is going to be cooped up for quite some time, and expecting a hyper / energetic dog to this peacefully just isn't fair.  So, take your dog to take care, go for long walks / runs, or go to the dog park.  Just make sure your dog is truly tired.

Step 2: Check the vet.  Make sure your dog is completely up to date on vaccinations.  Also, check out the area you're headed.  If you live in colder temperatures, your vet may not often recommend vaccines for tick-born illnesses, but if you're traveling farther south, you may want to consider those vaccines.  Take a moment to talk with your vet over what may be best.

Part 2: Packing
For a longer trip, you should bring along the following items:

-Enough food for the entire trip
-Food bowls
-A bed or blanket
-One good chew toy
-One good play toy
-Shot records
-Poop bags
-At least one bottle of water
-First Aid Kit (optional)
-Collars (with tags)
-Crate (optional depending on your dog and your destination)

Never assume that you'll be able to buy extra anything on your trip.  You might not be able to find your EXACT type of food or toys.  On one trip, I was quite surprised at the difficult I had in finding a quality leash.  I ended up buying a horse lead!

Also, keep in mind that you want to be a good steward wherever you go, so be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

Oh, and that water bottle?  That's so you can easily water them in the car.  You can always refill it at rest stops, but I found it was helpful to have for in between rest stops.

Part 3: The Trip
First, be prepared to stop more.  If you can usually drive 4+ hours without a stop, please don't ask your dog to do that.  I recommend stopping every 2-3 hours at least (Note: This is also recommended for people).  At each stop, make sure your dog has a chance to stretch his legs, use the bathroom, and drink a little water.

Next, make sure your dog has plenty of space in your car to stretch out.  Your dog should have enough room to sit, lie down, and stand up comfortable.  It's the same rules that apply when purchasing a crate.

Remember what I said earlier about being a good steward?  That really applies here.  Pick up poop!  That was one of my biggest peeves on this last trip.  So often, I'd take my dogs to the designated pet area only to be met with a land mine of dog piles.  You can bet I didn't want my dogs in that area either!  Also make sure your dogs are polite towards other dogs and people.  If other dogs and people stress your dog out, take him to quieter areas.

Part 4: The Destination
The biggest thing here is to actually make your dog a part of your trip.  Don't expect your dog to sit in a crate all day while you go off on adventures.  Find things your dog can do with you.  Go on a hike in a new locale, find a restaurant where you can eat with your pet, or simply go out to new parks and play with a toy.  Remember this is a vacation for your dog too, not just for you.

Lastly, I'm going to reiterate the whole good-steward thing.  If you're in a hotel, don't allow your dog to bark ad nauseum.  If you're staying with friends, clean up after your dog (vacuum up hair, respect rules regarding furniture, etc).  You're in charge of your dog, and it's your responsibility to take care of him/her.  Don't expect others to clean up your mess.

Traveling with your pet can be a truly rewarding experience.  You have a companion and a bit of protection in unfamiliar territory.  How much you get out of it, though, will really depend on how much you put into it.  Have fun with your best friend on your trip!

*One last note: I did not mention seat belting or crating your dog.  Seat belts for dogs have become extremely popular, but recent studies have started questioning their effectiveness.  The safest way to travel with your pet is to put your pet in a crate and secure the crate in the car.  Some states have laws regarding the safety of traveling with your pet, but if you're not traveling to one of those states, how you secure your dog is up to you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Terror Terrier Tallly

I have a question about my Terror Terrier Tally.
Tally loves to go everywhere with me, but she gets terribly annoying. On walks she barks at other dogs, but I just make her sit calmly next to me till the dog passes and then she's all good so that's not a issue, but at the park if she sees another dog having off-leash fun she goes berserk, she wants to go join them in their game of fetch or whatever they're doing. I try distracting her with training and hikes in the trees but she always tries to escape and chase that dog just cause she isn't allowed to join their play.  Whenever she plays with a dog they have fun and stuff unless the dog is better than her at something.  How can I get her too play nicely and not be such a sore loser? I hate her being on leash while everyone's dogs are playing and chasing each other.

 So, here's my first question: Does she ever become aggressive during these barking episodes?  Has she ever tried to bite you or another dog over a toy?  If the answer is no, then take a deep breath.  She just needs a little guidance.

It sounds like Tally is a typical Terrier.  She has tons of energy, lots of mental stamina, and she has no idea what to do with herself.  So, let's first look at training.

She may know the meaning of the word heel (or whatever command you use), or sit, or down, but just because she understands what you're saying doesn't mean she understands she's supposed to listen all the time.  That means it's time to up her training.  Start to SLOWLY desensitize her to distractions.  If she can be around a calm dog, reward her for being good, then go a baby step up.  Work with her with a slightly less calm dog.  Note that I did not say a hyper dog.  I just meant one who wags its tail a little more.  From there, try to work with an even less calm dog (and so forth and so forth) until you work your way up to a dog who's actually hyper.  Then, start to change the scenery. 

When you change the scenery, you may need to go back a step with your distraction.  That's OK.  It's perfectly normal.  Just take your time and keep working.

In addition to all that, you can also look at some options for corrections.  Corrections vary from dog to dog.  For some, it may just be a firm, "Ah ah!" while for others you may need something a little stronger (look for a post on corrections coming soon).

Lastly, as always, exercise, exercise, exercise.  Walks, runs, bike rides, hikes, games of fetch, swims.  Tally will need all that and more to unwind a little.  If you think she's getting enough exercise, up it anyway.  I can almost guarantee you she still has plenty of energy left.

If you really take the time to work on all that, you'll find that Tally will no longer be a Terror.  She'll just be a simple Terrier.

Oh, and one last note.  A lot of people stress out over their dog barking in the dog park.  I wouldn't.  Sometimes dogs just need that opportunity to be a dog.  The real problem with dog parks is that they're generally full of a bunch of overly-wound-up dogs, and that can cause some problems.  If you're worried about her barking within the dog park, you may not want to take her until you can easily redirect her.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Midnight Eliminator

Oh I have a question! I have a 2 year old cairn terrier, Flapjack. She's the very best animal in all possible ways, except for one thing - midnight pees. When I permit her to sleep in bed with me she doesn't have to go out until morning, but when she sleeps in another part of the house she never asks to go out and pees on the floor. She knows she's made a mistake and acts bashful. What to do?

This problem sounds like a two-fold issue.

First, it sounds like Flapjack may not have been fully house trained.  What is she lacking?  A way to let you know she needs to go out!  How does she signal she needs to go out during the day?  If your answer is that she circles at the door, walks to you, or you just take her out on a schedule, that's fine, but it's not going to be great a night when you're sleeping.  Try teaching her to ring a bell on the door, something you can hear.  The hope would then be that it's easier for her to let you know she needs to go out, and you'll be better able to get up and help her.

Second, it sounds like she simply sleeps better when she's with you.  This may be because she feels safer with you or she's warmer with you, or just that you have a more comfortable bed, but whatever the reason, she sleeps better when she's with you.  Have you ever had a slightly fitful night's rest?  Have you noticed that generally on those nights you need to use the bathroom at some point?  The same is probably happening for Flapjack.  So, we need to help her rest better.  Try giving her a little more exercise closer to bed time, and make sure she feels safe and secure (and comfortable) in her bed.  A crate may be a good option as well, as it tends to help with the security aspect, and it keeps her from wandering off and peeing somewhere.

While working on those two things may solve the issue, I'd like to mention one other thing.  Pay attention to how much water she's drinking and limit her water at night.  You may want to try pulling water up an hour or so before bed time, or just put ice in a bowl so she can't guzzle the water all at once.  Just keep in mind that what goes in must come out, and if she's drinking a lot of water then she's also going to have to pee.

One last, final, important note.  When you wake up and find a puddle of pee on your floor, it's important to not punish Flapjack.  If you don't catch her in the act of peeing, then you've lost your opportunity.  Anything after that is just punishment for punishment's sake, and that's not fair to her.

Good luck with Flapjack, and please keep me posted!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sibling Rivalry

We have a 5 y/o neutered male blue heeler, who has free run of the house. He is well trained, but high energy. Last week we adopted a 5 month old red heeler, spayed female. They play well outside in our fenced yard, and she begrudgingly accepts it when he corrects her. I watch them constantly, and when I am not around to supervise, she goes in her cage. My question is this...when he tries to get up on sofa she growls at him and sometimes lunges to bite. (This happens when i.m sitting on the sofa. He doesn't even want to sit by me, but on the other end.) I take her off the sofa and tell her no. It has gotten to the point that he won't get up anymore, even though he has always laid up here. This also happens in the car. Can you offer suggestions on how to fix this problem?
 This is actually a bit of a serious issue, because it could easily progress into something worse.  First things first, I would stop giving them each free run of the house.  The issue here is that your little girl is claiming the couch / car / etc as her own.  Really, though, all these things belong to you and you are allowing her to enjoy them out of the goodness of your heart.  So, let's start by setting guidelines.
Neither dog should be allowed on furniture unless you invite them up.
I'm a fairly understanding person.  I get that you don't want to have to lie on the floor just to snuggle with your dogs, and you'd like them to be able to enjoy the couch.  That doesn't mean, however, that they should be allowed on the furniture whenever they want to get up.  It means they should be allowed on the furniture whenever you want them up there.  So, at this point, if they get up on their own accord, make them get off.  If you want them on the couch with you, use a word or cue to let them know they're invited up (I use "hup" as a shortened version of "hop up").  I also recommend making them do something (like sit) before they're invited up.
Show them guidance in other areas of life as well.
Let them know that they should follow you in all areas of life, not just when the sofa is involved.  Make them sit before meal time or down-stay while you're eating.  Make them sit when opening the door or down before playing with a toy.  The idea is that all good things come from you and they have to work for it.  This will help to reinforce the idea that the couch / car / etc is yours and you dictate what happens on it.
Are you noticing an overall theme here?  Dogs, much like small children, need structure.  They thrive on it.  The point I'm trying to make is to give your dogs a good, structured routine.  Let them know that there are rules in the house and you set those rules and keep them in place.  This will help them in many areas of their life, and it should make for a happier, more harmonious household.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Charging Jack-Chi

We have another question to answer!  The set up for the question is a bit lengthy, but I'm sharing it all with you so you have all the information I have.

I've been having issues with my dog when we go on walks for a long time now and I'm hoping to get some advice. She's a 7 year old chihuahua/jack?/mystery dog mix. She's spayed, and weighs 11 pounds. At home she's always been sweet, she's good for the vet, does well with familiar dogs, and will eagerly make friends with new dogs as long as they come over to our place first. When she was a puppy she was terrified to go on walks, she'd freeze and I'd have to coax her along. She'd always shake and want me to carry her when we'd go to the dog park. Right around when she hit a year she started going berserk whenever she'd see a strange dog during our walks. When my husband takes her, or she's with one of my friends when we're out of town she does better...but with me she goes crazy.
Unfortunately we live in a busy part of a city that has a high population of dog owners, which has turned into her getting pad trained and not walked as often as she should. Recently one of my friends that lives in the same building has been taking her out. For awhile it sounded like she was doing OK, but it turns out she was flipping out on other dogs with her too, and getting picked up. Now she tries to get my friend to pick her up about half of the time when she sees another dog, and if I'm there...she'll stay in full on attack mode until the other dog is out of sight. The last three times my friend took her out, from what I was told, she's started jumping up at strangers and play nipping at their clothes. She's really bouncy, and when we play she'll jump and play nip. But, I'm worried that something might happen so shes no longer going with the friend. I suspect that the issue is her being protective of me (and now my friend), and not getting enough exercise because of the aggressive behavior. What should I do? 

 This is a great question, and it's a common problem, particularly with small dogs, as they tend to show a bit of a Napoleon complex.  In addition, it seems like she may show signs of under-socialization.  So, what are some things you can do?

1) Stop picking her up.
It's very common for the owner of a small dog to try to calm their dog by picking her up and soothing her.  The problem is, this doesn't actually calm the dog.  Rather it teaches her that acting in such a manner will get her hugs and snuggles (praise, if you will).  It will actually amp up her behavior as she searches for more ways to get your attention.

2) Teach her a command.
I'd start with teaching her a good heel command.  Really, any command could work, but the heel command is probably your best bet. 

3) Tell her what you want her to do, NOT what you don't want her to do.
Most people make the mistake of yelling at or trying to shush their dogs when they start barking.  The problem with this is that 1) your dog has no idea what you're telling her to do, and 2) even if she does understand "no" she won't understand why.  So, it's better to teach your dog a command (like the heel mentioned above) and then use that command when approaching stressful situations.  By rewarding your dog when she does the command you've taught her your teaching her that following you will earn her good things.

4)  Slowly introduce her to other dogs / distractions.
Don't just throw her into a long walk with huge distractions, and don't expect her to be perfect right off the bat with another wild and crazy dog.  Introduce, under control, to a calm, obedient dog.  Practice that a few times, then step up to a slightly less-trained dog.  Next, have an untrained, calm dog.  Keep stepping it up until you reach that crazy, hyper dog test.  Through each step, expect her to follow the command(s) you've taught her and reward her for doing so.

5) Consult a Trainer
Whether it seems like it a lot, the steps I just set forth can be quite overwhelming.  You may find yourself asking things like, "Am I doing this right?"  "Is this command good enough?" "Are we introducing her to the right kinds of dogs?"  If in doubt, set up a meeting with a local trainer.  Many offer free consultations or at least cheap consultations.  A great many also offer walking sessions where you can learn to walk with other dogs (a great source for when you are well into step 4).  Don't be afraid to seek the advice of a professional.  That's what we're here for!

I hope this helps to answer your question.  I do have one last tip, though.  Don't concern yourself over what others are thinking.  The number one worry I see in people who have barking / aggressive / excited dogs is what others must think of them.  The only thing you should be worried about is your dog.  By worrying about anything else you are doing your dog and yourself a HUGE disservice.  Good luck!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dogs In Need

For those of you who don't know, I do a lot of work with area rescue groups.  Mainly, I often offer my kennel as a halfway house for dogs who don't yet have a foster or a forever home.  Occasionally this also involves training them or grooming them.  In addition to that, I serve as an adoption screener, meaning I screen applicants who are interested in a dog to see if that dog is a good fit for them.  This means I have a lot of interaction with people involved with a rescue.  Some of them are looking for a new dog, some of them are surrendering their current dog.  Some of them are tearful because they want to be able to keep the dog but just can't, some of them are matter of fact that the dog isn't a good fit, and some are finding a home for a dog because the dog's owner is too sick to care for the dog himself/herself.  Today was the first time, though, that I became physically ill when I saw the state of the dog.

An owner came in today to surrender her dog.  She said it was a poodle mix, and that her employment situation just didn't allow her to care for her dog the way she'd like (something I'd heard many times before).  She said he hadn't been groomed for a while, and he had a few bad matts (again nothing new).  This is what she brought in:

The matt on his back alone weighed about a half pound.  His legs were so matted that he couldn't walk.  He had a matt that connected from the bottom of his neck to the back of his front leg, so even standing was painful.  During the grooming process, there were a few times he yelped in pain because simply trying to stretch out his leg hurt him.  Even through all that, though, he was friendly.  He didn't try to bite.

When we were done with the shave down were were left with what you see above.  Each black speck is a tick.  His paws were worse, and he had many ticks between each toe.  As we were shaving, at one point we shaved a huge matt of his ear.  It wasn't just a matt, though.  It was, in fact, a tick nest.  Hundreds of baby ticks had hatched on him and were making their home.

This sweet boy has been living outside for at least a year (probably more).  This sweet boy did nothing to deserve this treatment.  He was friendly and sweet.  He was a little nervous, but he was patient with us.  At this point, we're only partially done with his intake care.  The next step is to let the tick medicine do its trick and to finish grooming him.  We also need to administer vaccines to him since the only one he's had in the past 5 years is Rabies.  Chances are he has a tick-born illness which will require some fairly costly meds, and I can only hope that he doesn't have heart worms.  

In the few years I've worked with rescues, I've seen some pretty desperate situations.  This week alone I saw two dogs, emaciated, whose owner had run out of dog food and had essentially quit feeding them; I saw a dog who had heartworms, lyme disease, and ehrlichia all because the owner hadn't given it preventative meds; and I saw a dog, terrified of everything, either because it had been beaten or because the owner just hadn't taken the time to socialize it.  Still, none of that compares to this.  This is more than just neglect.  This is more than just an oversight.  This is flat-out abuse.  This dog was in so much pain he could not walk...all because someone had refused to take a brush or a pair of scissors to him.  

The problem is, there are so many dogs like him.  There are so many in shelters and in bad homes.  They need help.  They need someone to care for them, to love them, to play with them.  Rescues need fosters and donations.  If you're looking for a way to help, contact your local rescue, or contact me.  There's no reason for dogs like this little guy to stay in this situation.  We can help them.  You can help them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Aggressive Dog

Apparently I had missed this question that a reader had posted on the blog, but I'm going to try to answer it now.

I am new at your blog, but I have questions regarding my just adopted dog. He was very sweet when we first got him, but now he seems to be aggressive. He is nice when I am at home with him (I work at home), but once my husband comes home from work, he is very aggressive towards me, growling and bearing teeth. He is not neutered yet as he was found to be heartworm positive when we got him and undergoing treatment for that. Why do you think he is aggressive towards me when my husband is home and not when my husband is gone?

This is actually a very interesting situation, and it may be somewhat difficult to answer.  First, I have a few questions of my own:

1) How old is your dog?
2) What breed is your dog?
3) What do you and your husband do for a living?

Without having met you or your dog, if I had to guess, I'd probably say your dog is exhibiting some guarding behavior.  Namely, your dog is guarding your husband.  Generally, when I see this, it's when a dog has bonded more with one person over another.  The dog essentially "claims" this person as his and feels it's his job to protect this person and his property.  You'll often see other behaviors, generally mistaken for affection, as well.  These may include climbing into the person's lap, sleeping next to the person, or insistence on being petted.  In most cases, you'll see this type of behavior displayed towards a woman, while the man in the house is shown aggression.  Of course, though, there are no rules.

So, what do we do about it?

Well, we first need to teach your dog some manners.  I generally say it's not about what you DON'T want him to do, but rather about what you WANT him to do.  In other words, it's easier to tell him to sit than it is to tell him to stop.  So, try to teach him some basic obedience.  All he really needs to know is one really great command (down/stay or something similar).  If he can do this through any situation, you're ready to move on to the next stage.

Next, create some distance between your husband and your dog.  Instead of allowing your dog to climb up in your husbands lap or climb between you and your husband when you're relaxing, tell your dog to down/stay on the other side of the room.  Your husband could also be the one to tell him this.  Teach him that his biggest rewards will come when he's calm and away from either you or your husband.  Remember, it's not about teaching him to leave your husband alone.  Rather, it's about teaching him that good things will happen when he's not trying to guard your husband.

After that, we need to teach him that all good things come from you and he has to work for them.  I call this plan The No Free Lunch Program.  Essentially, have him do a command for everything.  Make him sit before you pet him.  Make him sit before you play with him.  Make him walk in a heel when you take him out.  Make him sit/stay before you take him outside.  Make him sit/stay before you feed him.  Have him down/stay while you're eating.  Of course, you don't have to use the commands I just stated, but you do have to have him work. 

Lastly, you can amplify the No Free Lunch Program a bit.  Feed him out of your hand rather than out of a bowl and have him do a command for each new handful.  Don't allow him on furniture unless specifically invited or don't allow him at all.

By teaching him to follow you more and that you're the provider of all things good you'll create a much stronger bond with your dog, and you'll encounter fewer incidents.

One last word of caution: Take note of whether the aggression is worse at certain times of day.  If you're dealing with some sort of neurological disorder or physical ailment, things may be worse in the evening when your  dog is tired and less tolerant of outside stimuli.

I hope that you and your dog can find a peaceful cohabitation. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Moving With My Dog

Here's a question I hear quite often:

"I'm getting ready to move to a new house (city/state/etc).  How should I handle this with my dogs?"

This is actually quite a loaded question, because it causes me to ask the following questions:

1) How many dogs do you have?
2) How old is your dog?
3) How long have you had your dog?
4) Do you ever travel with your dog?

Each dog is different.  Some can handle stressful situations with ease, while others go berserk at even the mention of a suitcase.  Here are some good rules for anyone to follow, though.

Step 1
Stick to a schedule. Your dog will see boxes and suitcases while you pack, and this may stress her out, so keeping her on a routine will be helpful.  Feed her at the same times each day, take her for walks at the same time, make the rest of her life as routine as possible.  It's particularly helpful if you start to do this a few weeks before you move.  That way, when life gets a little more hectic with the move, your dog won't be thrown off nearly as much.

Step 2
Exercise!  This is almost always part of my answer, but the truth is a tired dog is a happy dog.  Go for REALLY long walks, head out for a run, go for a bike ride, or, if all else fails, enroll in a doggy daycare.  This will make life much easier for both you and your dog.

Step 3
Board your dog.  On the day of the actual move, it may be best if your dog is not with you.  Think of it this way: Doors will be opening, people will be going in and out, chaos will reign.  Do you really want to have to worry about your dog?  See if a friend will take your dog for at least the day, put your dog in daycare for the day, or even consider boarding her overnight.  Plus, if you board overnight, or even for a few days, you'll be able to pack all the final things, move everything, and even unpack before having to bring your dog back into the mix.  It really takes the pressure off.

Step 4
Get comfortable.  This kind of goes along with step 3, but you really don't want your dog to come to the new house while you're still frazzled.  Take a little time to set up your bed and hang up some clothes.  You don't have to be completely unpacked, but having at least one room set up will give both you and your dog a bit of a retreat.  Trust me.  It comes in handy.

Step 5
Introduce your dog.  Take your dog to the new house.  Walk from room to room with her.  Introduce her to the back yard.  Make sure she sees that you're comfortable and happy.  Make sure you keep an eye on her, though, because sometimes the excitement can cause accidents or other behavior issues such as chewing or scratching.

Step 6
Settle down.  Once your dog has had ample time to see the new house and sniff the corners, try to settle down in one room.  If your dog knows a command such as "down" or "bed" use that.  Reward her for being calm with a chew toy or something to keep her occupied.

Step 7
Stick to a schedule.  I know this is also step 1, but it's so important it bares repeating.  The more of a routine your dog has, the easier things will be.

The last time Hans and I moved we had Cody.  Cody was almost 3, had a solid recall, and had traveled across country with us multiple times.  While we may have been a little more relaxed on these rules, we still followed them fairly well.  It made our lives easier, and more importantly it made Cody's life easier.  The next time we move we'll have both Cody and Lollie, and I can guarantee we'll be following the same rules again.

If you're planning a move, good luck.  It can be so very stressful.  Hopefully, though, with these simple guidelines, you'll have an easier time with things.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rainy Days

If you live anywhere near Richmond, VA you're probably up to your knees in water.  Well, maybe not your knees, but at least your ankles.  Your days at work are spent in a near-comatose state where all you want to do is curl up and sleep and maybe read a good book.  When you come home, however, instead of being greeted by your comfy slippers and robe, you're greeted by a furry ball of energy.  Your dog has missed his walk for the past three days due to weather, and he's ready to go insane!  He's starting to exhibit some of his frustration by chewing or jumping or running in circles, and you have no idea what to do.  How can you give your dog some exercise without getting wet?  Well, here are some suggestions:

Sometimes a good training session can exhaust your dog mentally enough that he'll forget the physical stuff for a little while.  So, clear a little space in your living room and get to work!  Practice sits and downs and stays.  Work on your heel.  Really make things difficult by throwing in some distractions.  Take this time to work on your dog's obedience, so once things clear up outside you'll have a star student.

Obedience training isn't the only thing you can work on, though.  Try doing some fun stuff, too.  Can your dog do any tricks?  Run to Barnes & Noble (or your library), get a book (or DVD) on trick training, and try your stuff.  Some easy ones might be shake hands, roll over, or beg, but who knows how far you could go.  You may even be able to teach your dog to army crawl, pray, and roll himself up in a blanket!

Lastly, you could use this time to work on a whole new field of training.  Do you think your dog might be great at agility or tracking or Rally-O?  Well, now's your time to try it out.  Again, go to your local book store or library, see what you can learn, and try a few easy things.  You can makes jumps out of a broom and chairs, you can use your coffee table for a standing table, and you can use that tunnel for your kids as a tunnel for your dogs.  Keep it simple with these, though.  For harder things, you may want to consult an expert.

Play Games
Do you know what my favorite rainy day game is?  Hide and seek!  Generally, Hans will hide with a treat while I hold onto Cody.  Then I'll say, "Where's Daddy?" and laugh at Cody while he tears through the house looking for Hans.  Once he's found Hans, he gets snuggles and a treat, and we do it all over again.  Alternatively, you could just hide a treat and get him to find that.  OR, if you're really motivated you could try to teach him to find your keys, so you have someone helping you when you're in a rush.

Hide and seek isn't the only game out there, though.  There's also indoor fetch (your dog chases a ball down a long hallway) or reverse fetch.  Reverse fetch is a game that Cody created where he hides his ball under a sofa or some other location where he can get it back.  Then he barks at it until I get it for him.  It's not my strongest recommendation, but it can be useful in times of need.

Also, try giving your dog some puzzle toys to play with.  The simplest and most common puzzle toy is a Kong, but there are plenty of others out there.  My dogs like the really hard ones, and have taken to taking their toys to the top of the steps and rolling them down so that treats bounce out along the way.  This kills two birds with one stone, because the dogs get exercise by running up and down the stairs.  So, VICTORY!

Are those suggestions just not working for you?  Well, try your local doggy daycare.  A lot of these places have an indoor area for dogs to play, and they're more than happy to help tire out your dog.  Many even have a half day option if you just want to try it out for a few hours.  Bonus: It's a great way for your dog to make new doggy friends.

Get Wet
Of course, there's always one, last option, and that's to simply get wet.  Sometimes a run in the rain can be exhilarating for you and easier on your dog.  Through a normal summer, when temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, those rainy days can provide a much-needed respite for the heat.  You an run a little farther and play a little longer because your dog won't overheat.  Just be prepared for a little extra cleanup when you're done.

So, you see?  There's plenty of fun things for you to do with your dog during a rainy day.  Don't let the weather get you down.  Just get creative, and you'll find a plethora of activities!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Owner's Review: Acupuncture and Chiropractic For Your Pet

Recently, I've been wondering about acupuncture and chiropractic care.  Lollie suffers from severe allergies, and Cody is almost six years old, and his age is showing.  I've had chiropractic care myself, and I thoroughly enjoy it, but acupuncture is a whole new idea to me.  And to be honest, I'd only ever given either a passing thought when it came to my dogs.  I liked the idea, but I really wasn't sure it would be worth it.  I certainly didn't want to spend money on something that didn't work, and I didn't want to put my dogs through the potential stress or pain if something went poorly.

Then one day, one of my clients was telling me how they had started acupuncture and chiropractic care for their dogs.  Really, their dogs' issues were fairly similar to mine, and I was seeing a noticeable improvement in their dogs.  The younger one, without allergy issues, was playing better with the other dogs, and he seemed happier overall.  The one with allergy issues had fewer hot spots, and seemed more content.  So, I asked for their vet's number, and I gave her a call.

Yesterday, the doctor came out to my house, so the dogs were relaxed and comfortable to begin with, and that was nice.  We started with Cody.

Cody has always been a healthy dog.  On his annual visit to the vet, I'm reminded how healthy he is.  Yet, something seemed off.  I couldn't really put my finger on it, but he just wasn't his usual peppy self.  He had a little more trouble waking up in the morning, and he just didn't seem as happy.  Try telling that to your vet!  I can see it now, "Well, he's eating fine and moving fine, but he just doesn't seem as happy."  That's hard to diagnose.  Yet, as we went through the chiropractic adjustments, I could see changes in him taking place.  There were points she hit that obviously hurt him, but when she was done, he seemed relaxed and peaceful.  When she was done with his adjustments, he hopped off the table, did a nice shake, and pranced around a little.  I was already impressed.  Next came the acupuncture.

I'll be honest here.  The acupuncture was more of a bonus thing.  I think what he really needed was the adjustment, but I wanted to whole kit and caboodle.  I watched as the doctor put needles in different spots, and Cody seemed utterly confused.  He flinched in a few spots, but all in all didn't seem to bothered.  When we were done putting the needles in, though, he immediately tried to turn around and bite some.  He was not happy having these weird things sticking in his skin!  I had to tell him to down and to stay, and then I had to feed him watermelon as a treat for staying so calm.  Eventually, though, I watched him relax, and he eventually fell asleep.  When we were done, we removed the needles, and I watched for a reaction.  Oh how happy he seemed!  He was practically giddy.  Well, needless to say, I was pleased, and I couldn't wait to see how things went for Lollie.

Lollie is my nervous Nellie.  She's scared of most people and new surroundings.  On top of that, she has horrible allergies.  Her face is almost constantly red and inflamed, she's fairly regularly develops mild infections, and she's even been known to break out in full-blown hives.  On top of that, even though her diet is the same as Cody's, her stools are softer, lighter in color, and smell worse.  Managing her allergies means a strict diet of no wheat, no corn, no soy, no dairy, no chicken, no beef, and regular bathing when pollen counts are high.  We wash her bedding once a week to help with the buildup of dirt and allergens, and yet she still seems to have issues. 

We did an adjustment on her first.  This nervous gal of mine was, at first, terrified.  I held her head and tried to soothe her, but it was obvious how nervous she was.  It didn't take long, though, for her to start to relax.  After one large adjustment in her tail, she started to rest her head in my hands and fall asleep.  It went extremely well, and, while I was nervous as to how the acupuncture would go, I was gaining confidence. 

Lollie was a super-start during the acupuncture.  She barely flinched as the needles were put in, and she became so very relaxed.  At one point, as she fell asleep standing up and actually fell off the table.  (Don't worry.  It was no higher than a low coffee table.)  I thought, surely she's done for now.  She's going to panic.  I was wrong, though.  She merely looked at me and at the doctor, walked over to her chair, climbed in and fell straight to sleep.  She even started to snore!!  That was impressive enough, but what really struck me was how I was able to watch her face change color.  Her face had been fairly red all morning. It was actually low on the allergy scale, but it certainly wasn't perfect.  I watched as her face lightened to a near perfect white.  She seemed so happy and peaceful, and when we removed the needles she was practically a dead weight.  She just wanted to sleep.

As pleased as what I was, I was still concerned.  How would things be as the day wore on.  What about the next few days?  Well, I can only speak for the past 24 hours, but so far so good.  Lollie's allergies are definitely lessened.  She's seemed happier and more playful too.  On top of that, this morning her stool was completely normal...almost exactly like Cody's.  And what about Cody?  Well, Cody is back to his old, youthful self.  That inexplicable unhappiness must have just been pain, because he's doing great today.  He's playing with the other dogs, he's jumping around.  I can't believe how well he's doing.  On top of that, he woke up with ease this morning.  I didn't have to drag him out of bed.  In fact, he seemed almost happy to wake up (I wish I could say the same).  I'm still watching to see what happens over the next few days, but so far I'm happy.

Lollie has another appointment in two weeks, and Cody has another appointment in a month.  If this continues to go as well as what yesterday did, I will happily keep them on the routine.  I'm so pleased with everything.  If you're debating doing the same for your dog, I highly recommend it.  If you need a recommendation on who to use, give me a call. 

Lollie's too relaxed to stay awake.
Please hold my head up.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Hungry Puppy

Here we have another Ask A Dog Trainer question.  This one is about food!

Rosie is my 5 month old German Shepherd and I am feeding her puppy kibbles, grain free. I feed her twice a day now but did feed her 3 times a day when she was younger. I noticed when I fed her the amount suggested on the bag she doesn't eat it all and will have left overs over night. When do I switch her to adult dog food? How much do I feed her? How often should I feed, and is it best before or after her walk? 
Deciding how much to feed your dog and when can be confusing for new dog owners.  It's all complicated by the fact that each dog is different with different needs, and when you're dealing with puppies, you're dealing with growing dogs whose needs can vary from week to week.  There are, however, some general guidelines you can follow.
1) Never follow the recommended feeding amount on the dog food bag.  Dog food manufacturers want you to buy more food.  The more food your dog eats, the more you'll have to buy.  The problem is that most dogs don't need as much food as what's recommended, and you'll either end up with an overweight dog or a lot of left over food.  Each dog has different needs and these needs can vary based on age, size, and activity level.  For instance, both my dogs, Cody and Lollie, each weigh about 60 pounds.  Lollie is a 3 1/2 year old boxer / bulldog mix who spends the majority of her day sleeping.  Fifteen minutes of play in the morning, or a long walk, will wipe her out.  She eats about 1 cup twice a day.  Cody, on the other hand, is a 6 year old Labradoodle who is much more active.  On any given morning he will run anywhere from 3 to 13 miles with me, and his food intake adjusts accordingly.  On calmer days, he'll receive 1-1 1/2 cups twice a day, but on the more active days he can eat up to 4 cups twice a day.  Both dogs receive treats fairly generously, but I'm always watching for weight gains or losses and will adjust their food accordingly.
2) The battle over when to switch to adult food has been long fought and there are many different opinions.  Many different breeders will say that once a puppy is on solid food, she can eat whatever the mother is eating, whereas some say to wait until the puppy is officially an adult (about 2 years).  The biggest concern with puppy food and adult food is the amount of protein and fat.  Puppy food generally has more of each to assist your puppy with rapid growth and high energy.  Generally, I recommend waiting until your dog is about a year old before switching to adult food, but I've known dogs who have had to switch earlier or later based on certain needs.  If you think your dog has some abnormal nutritional needs (growing too fast, not putting on weight, not growing fast enough, tired more than usual, etc), consult your vet about it.  The biggest thing here is knowing your dog's individual needs and meeting them.
3) As far as how often you should feed her, I recommend twice a day; once in the morning and once and night.  Alternatively, you could feed 3-4 smaller meals throughout the day, but this is often unrealistic for working parents.  I do NOT recommend feeding one large meal or free feeding.  There are a lot of obedience reasons tied into this, but from a health stand point, I prefer to know how much my dogs are eating and when they're eating.  This way, if they become sick, I can tell the vet what their diet has been recently.
4)  Whether you should feed before your walk or after your walk really depends on your walk.  If your walk is a 20-30 minute leisurely stroll, I recommend feeding about 20 minutes before your walk.  This will allow your dog to digest some of her food and then evacuate her bowels on her walk, as opposed to trying to set up a separate time to do so.  If by "walk," however, you mean "moderately paced run for 30+ minutes (which a young puppy should not be doing anyway)," feed your dog at least 30 min-1 hour after your run.  The idea here is that you do not want your dog to have too much food on the belly as her temperature rises (like it does with strenuous exercise).  If there's too much food on the belly, your dog runs the risk of becoming ill or even developing bloat.  Instead, if you allow your dog a little time to cool off before eating, things will be much safer.  Note, this also applies to giving your dog large amounts of water or water that is too cold.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into feeding your dog.  As with most things, there is not one set of rules, as each dog is different in a variety of ways.  By taking the time to learn about your dog's specific needs, you'll be able to determine the best way to feed.
 Remember, if you have a question for the dog trainer, feel free to ask on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kennel Cough vs. Bronchitis

We have a new and exciting Ask the Dog Trainer question today.  To be honest, it's more of an Ask the Vet question, seeing as I had to ask a vet to get a clear answer.  Since I was confused at first, I thought it might be a good idea to share with you what I learned.

My dog has had a cough for the past week.  It's fairly productive, and she hasn't been acting herself, so I took her to the vet.  My vet told me she has Bronchitis.  I asked if it was Kennel Cough, but the vet said, "No."  It was simply Bronchitis.  What's the difference?

Yep, this one definitely baffled me.  As far as I knew, Kennel Cough and Bronchitis were one and the same, but apparently I was only partially right.  As it turns out, Kennel Cough is Bronchitis, but Bronchitis is not necessarily Kennel Cough.  Confused?  Let me explain.

Bronchitis describes anything that irritates the trachea.  This could be allergies, kennel cough, a cold, a flu, dust, etc.  Kennel cough, on the other hand, is specifically an infectious virus which happens to effect the trachea as well as other parts of the body.

Now then, with that, I must make one comment.  In the past couple of weeks, I've seen a huge increase in dogs coughing.  Most dog owners and many vets will automatically assume this is kennel cough and will prescribe antibiotics and cough medicine.  The problem is, kennel cough is not always the answer.  I find it no surprise that this huge increase in coughing dogs came at the same time that the weather got warmer, the pollen count rose, and I ended up with an irritated throat and a running nose.  I didn't have a cold.  I had allergies...and most likely so did many of the dogs being treated for kennel cough.

So, before you load your dog up with antibiotics and other meds, make sure you know what's going on.  It may be kennel cough, it may be allergy-induced bronchitis, or it could be some other, more severe bronchitis.  You'll save yourself a lot of time and money, though, if you are aware of all the possibilities.

Remember, if you have any questions, feel free to ask on our Facebook page!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Allergic Dog

Yes, it's time for another "Ask The Dog Trainer" question.  The question we have today is one that I hear quite often, and it's more common than many might think, so here we go:

I have a Boston Terrier, Max, who is quite sweet.  Recently, though, he's been itching and scratching a lot, and he's developed some irritation in some places (particularly his belly).  My friend mentioned he could have allergies, but he's never shown signs of this before.  Is it possible for dogs to develop  / have allergies?

Well, this is an easy one.  In a short answer: Yes.  Like humans, it is quite possible for a dog to develop allergies over time, and his/her allergies can be to anything from food to pollen.  And the symptoms can range from mild irritation and itchy skin to more severe ear infections and hives.  The real question here, though, is not whether or not a dog can develop allergies, but rather what can we do about them?

So the first thing I ask my clients when dealing with a dog showing signs of allergies is, "When are the symptoms the worst?"  About 90% of the time the response is that the dog is itching in the spring and summer and the feet are particularly itchy at this time too.  Generally, when this is the case keeping your dog clean and free of dust can help.  Also, making sure your dog's bedding is clean will help to relieve symptoms as well.  For severe scratching, try bathing your dog in a mild shampoo with cool water.

So, what if the symptoms are constant?  What if your dog is always itching and always suffering from ear infections?  What if your dog is developing rashes or breaking out in hives?  What then?

Well, generally I'd say this is probably a food allergy.  So, the first thing to do would be to cut out some of the most common allergens: wheat, corn, soy, and dairy.  Finding foods without these ingredients is actually easier than you thin (although you probably won't find them in your local supermarket).  If that doesn't work, focus on the protein.  The two most common sources of allergies in protein are chicken and beef.  I recommend switching to a fish-based diet as the added Omega-3s can sometimes help, but I've known people to switch to a completely unusual diet such as Kangaroo.

For some, though, this still is not enough.  At that point, I might suggest making your dog's food.  This eliminates any preservatives or other possible allergens from the diet.  You know EXACTLY what your dog is eating.  Of course, then it's important to not give your dog any other types of food either.

And, of course, there are dogs who are allergic to all of the above.  The require routine bathing, a strict diet, and tender, loving care.

In addition to all of the above treatments, you may even want to consult your vet about medication.  Sometimes a simple Benadryl can help to relieve symptoms, but other times your vet may prescribe an allergy med to help during the bad times.

If your dog is an allergy sufferer, take heart.  They may require a little more work, but they're worth it.  They're definitely worth it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Do I Choose A Groomer?

Today's question is a little different.  No one asked me about it on Facebook.  Rather, it's one that I recently had to ask myself.  Today's question is:

How do I choose a groomer??

When I first got Cody, a Labradoodle, I didn't quite realize how extensive his grooming needs would be.  As he grew older, his hair grew longer, and his curls became much more pronounced.  It didn't take long for his coat to matt, and he was so very uncomfortable.  I realized fairly quickly that I needed a groomer.

Now then, way back when, before I worked with dogs professionally, I didn't understand how much of a difference there could be among groomers.  I went to the first place I knew that offered grooming at a fairly decent rate.  This ended up being one of the big box stores that everyone knows about.  I didn't realize that their groomers only had 2 weeks of formal training, or that they saw at least 15 dogs a day (that's per groomer and that's a lot).  I didn't understand that their prices really weren't that great considering the small amount of time they'd spend with my dog, and I definitely didn't understand how much their lack of skills would show.  When I picked up Cody, however, I knew there was something wrong.  Besides the fact that my motley, crazy dog now looked like a giant, over-fluffed marshmallow, he also seemed very agitated and overwhelmed.  He came careening around the corner and practically climbed up me trying to get away.  I hated the way he looked, and he seemed to hate being there.  So, we began the search for the perfect groomer.

Over the years I tried fancy places, small places with lots of clients, small places with only a few clients.  I tried a lot of places.  In that time, I learned a lot.  Cody really started to HATE grooming.  At one salon that I really liked (they made him look nice), Cody refused to get out of the car.  Considering the fact that Cody is often excited just to enter the vet's office (he doesn't love the vet, but he likes the building), I knew something was wrong.  At another salon, Cody was happy until we entered the building.  Then he proceeded to urinate all over the floor.  At one salon Cody was fine, but he ended up catching an infection because they didn't clean their tools properly.  Yeah, we weren't happy.  Finally, I opened the daycare.  I needed a groomer, and I wanted a good one.  One that dogs would be happy to see.  So, I learned to ask the right questions.  When looking for a groomer, make note of the following:

1) Look at the surroundings.  Are they fairly clean?  Sure, there may be hair, but it should be fairly clean of dust and dirt, and the place should be fairly tidy.

2) How much experience do they have?  Most groomers are not trained at a school, so ask about what education they do have (apprenticeship, self-taught, etc).  On top of that, how long have they been grooming?  Have they won any awards?

3) Do they know obscure grooming things?  When I first started training, I had no idea what hand stripping was (learn more about it here), but when I opened the kennel I actually had quite a few people ask me about it.  What I learned is that there are some groomers who have no idea what I'm talking about, some who have heard of it but never done it, some who have done it but prefer not to do it because it takes so much time, and then there are some who have done it, know what they're doing, and are more than willing to do it again to further the breed's look.  In my experience, this last type is worth their weight in gold.

4) Do you like them?  Chances are, if you don't like your groomer's personality, your dog won't either.  Don't stick around with someone whom you think is rude or mean or rushed.  It won't turn out well.

5) To that note, meet the groomer!  This may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of places don't have you interact with the groomer.  They simply have the front desk staff help you at all times, and getting in touch with the groomer is a pain in the posterior.  So, at least once, meet the groomer.  Talk about your desires and your dog's needs.  If you decide to try the groomer, see if she/he followed your instructions.  If he/she did not, see if they're willing to try to correct the issue.  You can't regrow hair that's been cut too short, but a groomer can offer a discount on the next grooming to help make up for the error.

6) Find out where the dogs go when they're not being groomed.  A full grooming generally includes: waiting for the groomer to finish other appointments, bath, blow out, trim, waiting to be picked up.  This can last for 2 hours or even up to a full day, depending on how the appointments are scheduled.  Do dogs get a potty break?  Do they get more than one?  Some groomers work with day cares, so your dog can play in the morning and be groomed in the afternoon.  Either way, you want your dog to have ample time to stretch his legs and get a potty break.

Lastly, as with most things, ask around.  If you see a dog on the street who just looks gorgeous, don't be afraid to ask where they groom their dog.  If you have friends with dogs, ask them where they go. 

I hope this answers all your grooming questions.  If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ask A Dog Trainer: Sleeping Like A Baby

We have an interesting question from Facebook today:

Ok, I have been noticing some odd behavior from my dog and thought you might have some advice. I have a 3 year old black lab. My wife and I also have a 10 month old son. Toby* (our dog) has not been a very big fan of our son. He seems somewhat nervous around him and we have been working on that but never leave them alone. The odd behavior is recently Toby has been going into our baby's room whenever I leave for work. It seems he goes there when he is nervous or anxious or when we leave. We are pretty sure he sleeps there till we get back. He never acted this way in the past. It is winter so he does get less exercise than in the summer but its not a large change from the norm. Could this have something to do with the baby or has he just decided this is his safe zone? Thanks for any advice.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent 

Alright, so my first question here is, does having your dog sleep in your baby's room hurt anything?  If not, then I wouldn't worry so much about it.  That said, you may just be wondering why he's doing it and want to make sure he's OK.  Well, there are a variety of reasons he may be sleeping in the baby's room.

My first thought on this is smell.  Chances are you're spending a lot of time with your baby.  You're probably even spending a lot of time in the baby's room.  This means the room smells strongly of you and this probably comforts Toby.  If anything, the room definitely smells a lot like the little creature you're spending a lot of time with.  This could be Toby's way of connecting more with you and the baby.

After that, he could just be comfortable in the room.  Maybe he just realized how soft the carpet is, or how warm the floor is.  Maybe he likes the way the sunlight comes in through the window.  It could just be that he's comfortable.

Lastly, it could have a little bit to do with the anxiety.  Can I tell you a secret?  Babies make me extremely anxious too.  Sure, they're cute and sometimes fun to be around, but they have so many needs, and they break so easily.  What if I hurt the baby?  What if something else hurts the baby?  What if the baby needs something?  They require constant supervision and care.  That may be what's making Toby anxious (well, that and the weird noises).  He may be going to the baby's room as an instinct to protect something so fragile.  Of course, that's giving him a lot of credit, but I've seen weirder things.

In the mean time, as long as Toby isn't hurting anything in the baby's room, I would let him continue to sleep there.  I would also encourage y'all to include Toby in more family activities as well as spend some time doing some Toby-based activities.  Go for walks as a family and bring Toby, but also spend some time playing fetch or walking / jogging just with Toby.  Spend time on the floor with the baby and allow Toby to sniff and interact (if he can be calm enough).  If he's OK with it, use Toby to teach your 10 month old the proper way to pet and greet a dog.  Teach your 10 month old how to give Toby treats.  Let Toby know that the family has grown, but he's still and important part of it.  This may help his anxiety issues a bit.

I hope this helps.  If you have any other questions regarding your pet, feel free to ask away on our Facebook page.  Thanks!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Questions: Puppy Teeth

Today we have a question I here often.  I get it from people who have owned dogs before and from first time dog owners.

I have a young puppy, and she's really sweet, but she bites a lot.  She's not trying to be mean, but it really hurts and I can't get her to stop.  What should I do?

When puppies play, they're actually learning valuable life skills.  They're learning how to fight and hunt.  They're learning how much force to use when they bite.  They're learning how to interact with others.  Since dogs do not have hands with opposable thumbs, they have to use their mouths instead.  So, when puppies play, biting and growling and jumping, think of it as being similar to two young boys wrestling.  They don't mean any harm, but occasionally someone could get hurt.  This is why yelping helps.

When a puppy or other dog yelps, he's signifying pain.  He's telling the other puppy, "Hey!!!  You hurt me!!"  Over time, the biting puppy will learn how hard is too hard.  He'll learn bite inhibition.  Most trainers say to yelp as soon as your dog lays his teeth on you, but personally I like rough play, so my rule is a little different.  I yelp as soon as it hurts...just like a normal puppy would.  I also end the play at this point by standing up, crossing my arms, and turning my attention away.  This teaches my dogs that they can play with me as they naturally would, but if they get too rough I'll quit.  It keeps things fun for both of us.

 I also teach my dogs basic obedience, so if they want to play when I don't want to I can simply give a command, like sit or down, to keep them a little calmer.  By the same token, though, I make sure they get enough exercise throughout the day, so the chances of them wanting to play when I don't are slim.

The other thing you can do to help with biting is redirecting.  When Cody was a pup, I almost always had a rope tug toy handy (it was my favorite toy for him at the time, but choose what works for you).  If Cody started playing rough, and I didn't want to play just like that at that moment, I would pull out the tug toy.  I would encourage Cody to tug on, chew on, and play with the tug toy, thus keeping my hands safe. 

Notice, though, that I did not say I gave him the tug and hoped he'd leave me alone.  It is still important that you interact with your puppy.  Play a game of fetch.  Make that tug game really fun.  Stay connected with your pup, but let him know that the toy is way more fun than your hand.

By using a combination of yelping, obedience, and redirecting, you are certain to have a well-behaved, playful puppy.  Have fun!!

If you have a question for the dog trainer, feel free to contact us on our Facebook page.  Here you'll also find fun pictures and interesting articles about our favorite furry creatures.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winter Advisory

The Richmond area is currently under a winter weather advisory.  They're calling for 2-5" of snow and some areas could see more.  For some people, this is nothing (and admittedly after living in MN for 4 years, I think people are overreacting), but regardless about how you feel about the weather, your dog may need to take some extra precautions.  So, I'm going to take a break for the Questions series today, and I'm going to give y'all some winter weather pointers.

The Paws
There are many things during winter weather that can affect the paws.  The storm that's being predicted has been preceded by lots of rain.  Rain can freeze and turn to ice.  Ice can cut paws.  Trust me, I've seen it happen, and it's not pretty. 

Another thing that can affect the paws is rock salt.  You know?  The stuff that's put down to help melt the ice on sidewalks and driveways.  Most dogs are actually quite sensitive to this stuff, and if their paws have any sort of cut or abrasion on them, the salt can really hurt.  So, it's important to protect their feet.

When looking at different types of foot protection, really any sort of booty will do.  You don't HAVE to spend lots of money on a luxurious boot, particularly if you're just taking your dog out to pee or out to the car.  However, if you're doing more adventuresome things, or if your dog is one who really wants to play in the snow, it might benefit you to go with something a little more high end.

My favorite form of boot is from RuffWear.  Personally I have a pair of their Grip Trex, and they work great.  They have other options for dogs going through deeper snow, but this is fantastic protection from snow and ice, and the hard Vibram sole helps my dogs to grip and keeps them from slipping.  Bonus: You can use them on more than just snowy days.  They're also great for hiking or even just terrain that's a little harder on the paws.

The Cold
Obviously, cold on these days can be a factor, and cold-weather needs will vary from dog to dog.  My two dogs, Cody and Lollie, have very different needs.  Cody can go outside without any protective gear, but he does need to be monitored.  Then, when he comes in, we have to make sure we dry him off and wrap him in blankets to keep his body temperature from dropping.  Lollie, on the other hand, gets cold just thinking about bad weather, so she needs some extra stuff.
To order a sweater for your dog, follow this link.

For just running around town and keeping warm indoors, Lollie has a simple sweater.  Of course, like people clothes, no two sweaters are created equally.  After trying a few options, I've fallen in love with the sweaters from West Paw Design.  They look nice, they're comfortable on her, and they keep her warm.  Plus, they're eco-friendly, so what more could you ask for?

For more extended periods of time out, we actually have a full-blown coat. There are a variety out there, but the one that works best for Lollie is from Canine Styles.  It's actually a mini horse blanket, so it keeps her warm, it's easy to put on, and it's comfortable.  The only downside is that it's dry clean only, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Small Dogs
Of course, small dogs have one issue that big dogs don't.  The snow is often over their heads!!!  For a small dog, or a dog who doesn't like his belly to hit the cold, you may need to clear a potty space.  This means get out the shovel, and dig a path from your door to your yard.  Make sure this space stay clear for your dog and scoop any think your dog may leave behind.  Also be careful as you scoop.  Continued scooping may cause the snow to pack, leaving it slick and difficult to maneuver.  To add extra grip to this surface (or to human walk ways as well), try pouring some non-clumping kitty litter on top.  The kitty litter is safe for dog's paws, and it won't degrade your walk way like salt will.  Yay!!

Other Hazards
Other things to look out for are things we use to keep us warm and safe.  Think antifreeze, fireplaces, etc.  Keep your dog far away from antifreeze as it apparently tastes sweet, but is extremely toxic.  Fireplaces can be quite a burn hazards, so if your dog likes to warm up next to the fire, make sure there's a grate to keep embers from rolling out and harming your dog.  Of course, also make sure that your dog doesn't try to fetch those sticks you're throwing in the fire!

All in all, by paying attention to your pet and by using a bit of common sense, you should be able to keep your dog safe, happy, and healthy.  By taking a few precautions, both you and your pet can have a lot of fun outside!